In the first essay in this series, we presented the notion that within interdisciplinary work “we each represent our own discipline, but we are all working for the same Kingdom.” This second essay in this three-part series is presented from the disciplines of education and behavior analysis. The unique gift of the education department is expertise in teaching and learning.
The reasons why anyone joins an interdisciplinary team vary from person to person. For example, a goal I (Karen) had set in the fall of 2021 was to seek more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues as we returned to on-campus life after over a year of virtual or hybrid instruction. I saw an announcement for an upcoming Faculty Coffee led by nursing and biology faculty members regarding the important topic of addressing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As a germaphobe, I was in. During the lecture, I sat with a colleague from my department (Brandon), and as we listened, we wrote a note back and forth to each other pitching the idea of an interdisciplinary research project with a focus on training nursing students. We were interested not only in what had been concluded thus far but also in ways that the field of behavior analysis could contribute to these efforts. Given the goal to collaborate and reach out more, we did just that. In behavior analysis, we have too often siloed ourselves in our field, our research outlets, and among our colleagues. The field has called for behavior analysts to engage in more collaborative work and more effective dissemination outside of our field.1 The ethical code that behavior analysts commit to has an emphasis on interprofessionalism and effective collaboration skills.2 An area that is primed for additional collaboration is an integration of behavior analysis and healthcare with a focus on research.3 After the Faculty Coffee presentation, we knew that this was an opportunity for us to reach across the quad and work together with a focus on an exchange of gifts between behavior analysis and nursing.
Effective and meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration may occur when those involved engage in clear communication and their membership on the team is reinforced.4
As we developed our interdisciplinary proposal, we wanted to ensure that we approached our proposal in the right way. We were proposing a teaching strategy to professors in a renowned nursing program and did not want it to appear as if we thought their program was lacking (as it is not!). We wanted to see if there was a need that we could address by utilizing our behavior-analytic background and specialization in task acquisition procedures to extend training research for prelicensure nurses. In our initial meetings, it was brought to our attention that nursing programs across the country were moving towards competency-based assessments—something that behavior analysis does very well. In our planning conversations, we discussed how this project could integrate all of the disciplines present and be beneficial to add to the existing literature.
Our team members were able to divide tasks based on our gifts. The education faculty developed the study procedures (e.g., data collection, phases of the intervention, etc.) prior to the study launch while our colleagues in nursing coordinated the research schedules and refined our materials to align with their curriculum. Our biology faculty member provided mentorship for our collaborative effort by facilitating conversations about our goals, asking questions from another perspective, and providing vision for us through our plans for dissemination. It was clear that our team had a commitment to this project and shared efforts to launch!
Walking across the quad of our campus is a short two-minute journey; however, walking into the simulation labs where students are learning to care for patients and save lives felt like a world away. As education faculty, we do not know how to insert an IV catheter or administer medication. However, we do have special gifts in developing effective teaching practices based upon individual student performance.
Through this process, we were able to see the nursing faculty demonstrate their mighty wisdom with their students. We were able to understand the gravity and importance of a training program that aims to ensure the safety of future patients. As we sat behind the two-way mirror, we observed students learn from their mistakes and improve based on the feedback provided to them by their faculty. This project gave us the opportunity to work closely with faculty from other departments in a way we had not previously. We got to know each other personally while engaging in our integrated professional project and we were able to combine expertise across multiple disciplines to ultimately improve the skills of future nurses in our community.
This project brought changes on our campus beyond our small group. As collaboration seeks to provide mutual support, Christian collaboration can provide mutual support with a common goal of bettering the Kingdom of God. The administration at our college heard about this project and highlighted this type of collaboration. They asked a member of our team to speak about how this project grew, changed, and evolved throughout the experience during our all-faculty institute.
That faculty member asked faculty to think about their locations on the campus map. While walking across campus might only take two minutes, it is a journey we often do not choose to take. He drew lines of where he goes, from his car to his office to a classroom. Yet, when he ventured onto a new path, he was able to cross paths with colleagues to build this team. Pathways intersect for a reason, but only when we are open to the new paths God leads us to follow.
As we discuss lessons learned, we have learned to be willing to walk a new way and allow our pathways to intersect with others. And for this experience, God led us to a project that improved our student’s experience, faculty research experience, and fellowship across campus. And for that, we will be ever grateful that we all were willing to forge a new trail for collaboration on our campus.
- Thomas S. Critchfield et al., “Normative Emotional Responses to Behavior Analysis Jargon or How Not to Use Words to Win Friends and Influence People,” Behavior Analysis in Practice 10, (2017): 97–106, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-016-0161-9l; Michelle P. Kelly et al., “Spreading the News: History, Successes, Challenges and the Ethics of Effective Dissemination,” Behavior Analysis in Practice, 12 (2019):440-451, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-018-0238-8; Megan S. Kirby, Trina D. Spencer, and Shane T. Spiker, “Humble Behaviorism Redux,” Behavior and Social Issues 31, no. 1 (2022): 133–158, https://doi-org/10.1007/s42822-022-00092-4; Edward K. Morris, “Public Information, Dissemination, and Behavior Analysis,” The Behavior Analyst 8, (1985): 95–110, https://doi-org/10.1007/BF03391916.
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts, https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ethics-Code-for-Behavior-Analysts-2102010.pdf.
- Ashley Greenwald, Kathryn Roose, and Larry Williams, “Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Medicine: History of the Relationship and Opportunities for Renewed Collaboration,” Behavior and Social Issues 24 (2015): 23–38, https://doi-org/10.5210/bsi.v24i0.5448.
- Lina Slim and Lilith M. Reuter-Yuill, “A Behavior-Analytic Perspective on Interprofessional Collaboration,” Behavior Analysis in Practice 14, no. 4 (2021):1238-1248, https://doi.org/ 10.1007/s40617-021-00602-7.